Imagine a group of children passing by a kid in a wheelchair, and simply greeting him normally as they would any other child. No stares, no awkward or intrusive questions, just wholehearted acceptance.
What a different world we would have if that kind of situation would be the norm, right? That was the thought floating through my head after reading the tween mystery novel House of Secrets.
The book is about two boys who are best friends, Rafi and Zechariah, and a new family who moves onto Rafi’s block with a mysterious cloud surrounding them. When the red flags become one too many, Rafi and Zechariah begin investigating the “house of secrets”—and what follows will remain undisclosed here, as I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone! The book is, hands down, author M. Jakubowicz at her best once again; the storyline, plot, and messages are superb as they are age-appropriate.
But what really sets this book apart is the fact that Rafi, one of the main characters in the story, is actually a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair.
Now before you start thinking that the book is all about the importance of including those who are handicapped, let me tell you—there is nothing preachy in this book whatsoever! It is an action novel, plain and simple, which happens to include a handicapped boy in its cast of characters. But, I believe, therein lies the beauty of the message.
To Zechariah, Rafi is a regular kid—a pal to knock around jokes and ideas with, just like any other boy in their class. So, he may be unable to walk. So, Zechariah may have to walk alongside Rafi’s wheelchair on their daily trek home from school, rather than having an actual walking partner. Big deal! Bottom line is, Rafi is no different than anyone else, capable of solving a mystery as well as any other preteen yeshivah boy.
This, I feel, is the best message you can convey to a young reader on the topic of people who have handicaps.
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